The Grammar Gym Bag: The Ultimate Accessory?

The transporting of sporting clothing has always been a priority for Grammar girls, with sport and drill lessons an integral part of their education since 1875.

The 1958 School Swimming bag

What can you do with dripping wet swimming togs, smelly black sandshoes, and rolled up socks? These are challenges for the modern Grammar girl, but she has more options and improved design solutions on her side—considerably more than her earlier sisters.

1949 Grammar girl with the trusty brown Globite port

Originally, girls carried their Physical Education gear in their brown Globite port with their black sandshoes in a named, drawstring bag. With regular swimming lessons and extra sporting accessories, the necessity for a sports-specific bag became apparent.

2021—Ann Pressland’s (1958) sandshoes and drawstring bag (Yes, she still has them)

In the Sports Club meeting on 5 November 1958, Shirley Melzer (1953), alumna and the then Physical Education teacher, announced that there would be a specially designed school swimming bag available for purchase. The minutes state:

… The school would make a profit out of the sale and this profit would go to the swimming pool fund. (Sports Club Minutes Book p 154)

The bag replicated the design of the 1950s trendy airline vinyl travel bag with its streamlined shape, shoulder strap, corporate logo, convenient zip closure, and nametag pocket. This swimming bag proved popular—at the 14 April 1959 Sports Club meeting a profit of approximately 100 pounds was reported—and these funds, as previously determined, supported the construction of the first on-site swimming pool, which was completed in 1960.

This bag continued to grow in popularity with all Grammar girls. The water-resistant vinyl, compact size, and bright royal blue colour made it a perfect accessory for all sporting events and a functional option for active excursions. However, by the early 1980s, it had outlived its usefulness and become too small to be functional.

1967 Barbara Palethorpe QGSSSA Athletics captain, Lang Park. The hill strewn with gym bags.

1964 Zoology excursion—gym bags accompany students

This sports bag was the forerunner to the drawstring, nylon, cylindrical swimming bag, and even larger versions used by girls today. Grammar girls have always embraced the School bag in every format and these vinyl versions hold a place in the heart of not only those athletically minded Grammar girls from the 1960s and ‘70s, but also every girl who needed to transport her togs, towel, gym tunic, and sandshoes every week of her Grammar life.

Perhaps a not so nostalgic memory is those times when one opened the gym bag on a Sunday evening only to have forgotten the wet swimming togs and towel from the previous week!

Mrs Pauline Harvey-Short (1971)
Manager, School History and Culture

1967 BGGS Lifesaving Team with the ubiquitous swimming bag

The 2021 sports bag options